In Sunday’s Observer main section, Victoria Coren’s piece on the, as she phrased it, ‘Colegate’ saga (Cheryl Cole no longer being on X-Factor, etc), made a sideways swipe at a phenomenon which seems to grow week on week but which few question. Discussing the news which certainly filled all of our conversations in the office, on the phone, even over dinner last week, she writes:
‘One newspaper quoted a tweet from “fan” Nigel Stoneman (following the worrying new media trend for reporting public opinion based on random internet posts, which I’m not sure is entirely scientific), asking: “Am I the only one who has twigged that the whole Cole X Factor carry-on is one massive PR stunt?”‘
It might not be entirely ‘scientific’, as Cohen comments, but some may argue it is more democratic. No more do we minions need to listen just to the Oxbridge snobs (?!) which our country’s key papers choose as mouthpieces for the nation. By following a hash for a few hours it’s pretty easy to glean a sense of ‘What the nation [of Twitter users] is thinking’ without having to leave one’s desk.
However, I wonder if this so-called litmus-test really works, or if it actually makes for interesting comment at all? When browsing a newspaper or magazine becomes more of a run-down of what your current favorite/former favorite/new favorite celebrity/politician/sports star/journalist (it becomes self-referential!) [delete as appropriate] thinks is that really particularly interesting? Why pick up a paper at all?
An example could be Tanya Gold’s piece from this week’s Stylist. Point taken, I most definitely agree with her argument. But when the article launches head-first into a reference to a twitter conversation, before quoting it excessively in upper case in the second sentence, it doesn’t make for the smoothest of reading!
I’m not trying to say that we should never hear references to social media in our old-fashioned media; things have changed from the 90s and will never be the same again. Now we are all able to shape our own slice of cyberspace. But there has to be some vetting system when it comes to the proportion of an article devoted to a momentary social media storm (in a teacup); do the nutter opinions really matter as much some commentators give credit for?